Article Date: 6/1/2001

Business Advisor
Learning from the Chains
Optical chain stores have a lot of marketing dollars and corporate strategies in place. Find out what they're doing right.
By Jerry Hayes, O.D.

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), independent optometrists have a 36% market share of the $16 billion eyewear market (services aren't included in this number). Optical chains and superstores have a 32% market share, ophthalmologists account for 13%, opticians 9% and HMO-type clinics 10%.

While I suppose we can take some satisfaction from the fact that independent optometry is still the country's largest provider of eyewear, let's face it -- the $5 billion that chains sell is a lot of glasses and contact lenses! Love 'em or hate 'em, we have to respect the fact that they're doing something right to be that successful. The question I want to explore in this column is: What do chains offer that independents don't, and what can we learn from them?

Us and them

In my opinion, patients come back to independent O.D.s for our high level of professional care and personal service. The appeal of chains is what I'll call the "customer convenience package" of consumer awareness, location, perception of value and service and focus on fashion.

If you agree with my logic, then you'll probably agree that patients tend to be loyal to independents because of a personal relationship and they tend to do business with chains because they're perceived as more convenient and affordable. So no matter how good your professional services may be, the public likes certain things better about chains. Below are some of the reasons.

It can work for you

We independent O.D.s can't emulate everything the chains do -- nor should we try. The good news is that we can definitely incorporate some of their best business strategies into our own practices. Many successful independents are already doing this.

A frequent writer and speaker on practice management issues, Dr. Hayes is the founder and director of Hayes Consulting. Call (800) 588-9636 if you need help with your practice.

Optometric Management, Issue: June 2001